RALEIGH, North Carolina — Nico Hischier stared blankly as he stood in front of his locker trying to find words to describe another disappointing effort for the New Jersey Devils in a Lost 6-1 to the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at the PNC Arena on Friday.
The Devils captain looked crestfallen, and with good reason.
“It’s frustrating, for sure,” Hischier said. “We had a few chances at the start, but what bothers me the most is that we fought again. It’s the playoffs. Skill doesn’t mean anything. You have to fight for your chances and they give us have beaten for a second game in a row.”
Hischier noted a strong start followed by a second-period slump that led the Devils 2-0 in this best-of-7 series that travels to New Jersey for Game 3 on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET; TBS, SN1 , VAT ).
[RELATED: Complete Hurricanes vs. Devils series coverage]
The Devils vowed to start the game with much more energy and conviction after an ineffectual 5-1 loss in Game 1 on Wednesday, and they did.
They had six consecutive power play shots, including a 5-on-3 advantage for 23 seconds, after taking penalties at 3:33 and 5:10 of the first period. But in the end, they had nothing to show.
Instead, the Hurricanes keeper Frederic Andersen answered the bell, and the demons burned. That set the stage for a full turn of events in the second period, when New Jersey was outshot (16-12) and scored (4-0).
“They have a good team there, it’s not pretty in hockey the way they play,” said Hischier. “We’re really struggling with that, but they’re playing playoff hockey. What bothers me the most is that we’ve been beaten two games in a row. They’re playing their system well, and what matters is that. It’s who wants it the most. Who wants the puck more.
“Whoever wins the most battles wins the game…it’s frustrating for me.”
Video: Kotkaniemi scores twice in Hurricanes Game 2 win
New Jersey had a 7-3 advantage on shots at 8:57 of the start of the first, but that’s when Carolina unleashed its own push, hitting its opponent at every opportunity and finishing with a 6-1 advantage on the remaining 11:03.
“We missed early chances on a good power play and in the second period we lost patience,” Devils coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re watching a wall battle over the first power-play goal (by Jesperi Kotkaniemi 1:35 in the second); a low battle on the second goal (by Kotkaniemi 2:23 later).
“It changed the game. You can’t play like we did at the end of the second half, where you just give them chances.”
The Hurricanes outscored the Devils 5-5, an area Ruff feels needs to change, and quickly. That wasn’t the case when New Jersey knocked out the New York Rangers in seven games in the Eastern Conference first round.
“Right now, 5-on-5 is a better team,” Ruff said. “We have to win more battles. You have to be more determined. We knew it would be a different series. Last series was dominated by the Rangers power play, but our 5-on-5 play was good. The way we let’s change this show by making it better.”
Adding to the frustration is the fact that several of the Devils’ top scorers in the regular season were unable to produce in the playoffs, including Hischier (31 regular season goals; no playoff goals), Jesper Bratt (32 goals; one goal in an empty net) and Timo Meier (40 goals; no goals).
Meier returned to the lineup Friday after missing Game 1 with an upper body injury. He had five shots in 16:49 of ice time.
“We want to win, but we have to capitalize,” Meier said. “We have to work harder for that extra inch, and you can’t get frustrated. You have to go out there and try to make a difference in every shift because every game counts, even if you don’t score.”
Ruff said: “You can’t let frustration seep into your game, and I thought I saw frustration. They’re feeling the pressure not to produce and that’s one of the worst places to be up. until you get out of this funk.”
Carolina has five goals on 48 5-on-5 shooting in the series; New Jersey has two of 37 goals. The Hurricanes outscored the Devils 11-2. The Rangers outscored the Devils 10-2 winning the first two games of the first round before New Jersey won four of five to close the series.
For the second game in a row, Akira Schmid was drawn in favor of Vitek Vanecek after allowing four goals on 25 shots after two periods. The 22-year-old rookie was retired 1:55 into the second period after allowing three goals on 11 shots in Game 1.
“You just need to get [Vanecek] playing time too,” Ruff said. “We’ll have to make a decision in the next game, and I wanted to give [Vanecek] the opportunity to enter the mix [Friday] And [Wednesday].”